Editorial: Introducing New Editor Elsa Lam

Elsa Lam catches a reflection of herself and the Western Canadian landscape while photographing Craigie Hall at the University of Calgary. Elsa Lam
Elsa Lam catches a reflection of herself and the Western Canadian landscape while photographing Craigie Hall at the University of Calgary. Elsa Lam

Almost a decade ago, I filed my first article as a freelance contributor to Canadian Architect, with then-new editor Ian Chodikoff. Now, the desk has turned. Ian has signed off in pursuit of other professional adventures. And it is my privilege to accept the position of editor at Canadian Architect.

A few words of introduction. I attended architecture school at the University of Waterloo, then followed up with a post-professional degree in architectural history and theory at McGill. To round off my academic training, I completed a doctorate at Columbia University. During my schooling, I started a freelance writing business, authoring articles for architectural magazines and helping design firms put words to their ideas. I moved to Montreal after graduation to work as a curatorial coordinator at the Canadian Centre for Architecture.

Although I was living in New York City during my doctorate, my dissertation kept me focused on Canada. Through analyzing the Canadian Pacific Railway’s properties in the Prairies and Rockies, I sought to understand how buildings and landscapes contributed to national identity. Along with its iconic château-style hotels, the railway company constructed rustic bungalow camps, orchestrated Indian Days festivals with tipi villages, and even planned farming communities complete with prefab houses and barns. Architecture played a key role in how our country was viewed by the world–and how we viewed ourselves.

This vision of architecture is as pertinent today as it was in the 19th century. As a national architectural magazine, Canadian Architect is uniquely positioned to explore, critique and advance our understanding of architecture in our nation. What, if anything, links a library in Halifax to a skyscraper in Vancouver? Or a cottage in the Saint Lawrence Valley to a mining community plan in Alberta? When an architect trained in Canada moves to Bogotá, do they carry some kind of Canadian architectural DNA through their work? How does architectural practice go beyond the building shell to address questions of site, region and national culture?

My editorship will address these questions by building on the impressive legacy of the outgoing editor. As all who have met him will know, Ian has encouraged countless practitioners, students and writers across the country through his warm demeanour and unwaveringly practical advice. Under Ian’s leadership, the magazine has turned a wide-angled lens to architecture, bringing in new voices to present buildings as part of broader political and urban contexts. The magazine’s Insites, Practice and Technical sections have grown in step with professional practice, addressing the emergence of new construction technologies, the establishment of green environmental standards, and the proliferation of alternative business structures.

Opportunities exist in the coming years for Canadian Architect in the digital realm. The current website is built on a solid backbone and we look forward to developing deeper integration with social media, mobile readers and web-enhanced content. Whether it is enhancements to our website, our electronic newsletter, or our digital version of the magazine, all will reinforce and complement the strengths of the print edition.

Canadian Architect is founded on the work of practicing architects, academics and other researchers. In this, I will depend daily on the community of Canadian architects–your projects, your photos, your observations, your writing. With your patience and help, I look forward to quickly gaining experience, and beginning to set new paths for Canadian Architect.

Elsa Lam elam@canadianarchitect.com